Can You Walk a Marathon? (and How Long Will it Take?)

Walking during a marathon

When I started training for marathons, I’ve always wondered if you could sign up as a complete beginner and just walk the entire marathon. Seems like a good way to start, right? I did some calculations based on the average walking speed and the time limit of most marathons and here’s what I realized…

You are allowed to walk during a marathon, however, you are unlikely to finish within the cut-off time by walking at the average walking speed. Most marathon races have a time limit of 6 or 7 hours. Walking a marathon could take you 8 hours or more. 

Ahead, we’ll discuss how long it takes to walk a marathon at different walking speeds and why it’s impossible to finish a marathon within the cut-off time by walking at normal speeds. We’ll also answer a few questions about walking a marathon.

Are You Allowed to Walk a Marathon?

No known rule prohibits runners from walking part or the entire course of a marathon. In other words, the runners can use their discretion in deciding which parts of the marathon course they walk or if they walk the entire course.

However, most marathon events have a cut-off time. If you cross the finish line after the cut-off time, you will not be able to get your finisher’s medal nor will your name be included in the list of finishers.

In some events, there will be a sweeper vehicle (also referred to as a sweeper bus). If the sweeper vehicle gets past you, you’re usually out of the race.

How Long Will It Take to Walk a Marathon?

Like running, people have different walking speeds and rest breaks so it’s quite difficult to find out the exact duration of your race if you walk it.

According to Healthline, a walking speed of 3-4 mph is typical for most people.

If you walk at an average speed of 3.1 mph, you will be able to finish a marathon in 8 hours, 27 minutes, and 28 seconds which is beyond the cut-off time of most marathons.

Here’s a table showing how long it would take to walk a marathon based on different walking speeds.

Walking SpeedMarathon Time
3 mph8:44:23
3.1 mph8:27:28
3.2 mph8:11:36
3.3 mph7:56:42
3.4 mph7:42:41
3.5 mph7:29:28
3.6 mph7:16:59
3.7 mph7:05:10
3.8 mph6:53:59
3.9 mph6:43:22
4.0 mph6:33:17
Marathon time of different walking speeds.

Looking at the average speeds, finishing a marathon within their time limits is a bit of a stretch, however, there are exceptions—race walkers.

Believe it or not, some people could walk a marathon faster than most people run it.

Carlos Mercenario Carbajal, for example, walked a marathon in only 3 hours 21 minutes, and 54 seconds. That’s faster than the average marathon running time of 4 hours and 21 minutes. But how can race walkers walk so fast?

According to the IAAF competition rules, if there is no loss of contact of both feet from the ground and the advancing leg straightens upon first contact until the vertical upright position, it’s considered walking.

So race walkers developed a technique by shifting their hips to maintain speed while still adhering to the IAAF rules.

Here’s a video that explains race walking in more detail.

What is the Usual Time Limit of a Marathon?

Most marathon events have a time limit of 6 or 7 hours. But some events stay open for runners for up to 10 hours (which doesn’t mean they’ll consider you a finisher).

That means, if you cross the finish line after the time limit of 6 or 7 hours (depending on the marathon organizer) but within the time the marathon event stays open for runners, you may still record your own time using their clock and have access to the aid stations. But, you won’t be considered a finisher.

Do Runners Ever Walk During a Marathon?

Yes, several runners implement walk breaks during a marathon race. In fact, Jeff Galloway, a former Olympian and coach, encourage taking walk breaks during a marathon race, especially for beginners. Most of his athletes even saw a huge improvement from their marathon times after implementing walk breaks.

Jeff Galloway details his methods in his book Galloway Training Programs.

Also Read: Do Marathon Runners Run The Whole Time? (A Guide To Walk Breaks)

Should You Walk a Marathon?

Whether or not you try your hand at walking a marathon is up to you. Just remember that if you want to be considered a finisher, you have to finish before the time limit of 6 or 7 hours.

To do that, you need to be moving at a pace of 13:44 minutes per mile to finish within 6 hours or 16:01 minutes per mile to finish within 7 hours.

Also, be sure to train for the marathon you’re looking to participate in, even if you’re walking most of it. Running (or walking) a marathon without proper preparation poses some serious risks.

Also read: The Pros And Cons Of Running A Marathon And Training For It

Final Thoughts

Although it’s possible, walking a marathon from start to finish within the time limit is a far stretch for most individuals. Most marathons have a 6 or 7-hour time cap. Even if you brisk walk at a speed of 4 mph without stopping or slowing down, you only barely finish within 7 hours.

However, you can always implement a run-walk strategy during a marathon for a higher chance of finishing a marathon without feeling too tired.

Hey, if you’re looking for the perfect running gear and you’re having a hard time choosing one, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites below.

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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